- Get up to $90 cash back per person when you book with us
- A 13-day South Island itinerary, departing from Wellington
- 13 nights high-end hostel accommodation, in shared dorm rooms with shared facilities
- 13 tasty continental breakfasts
- Journey through multiple National Parks, including Abel Tasman National Park
- Take the iconic ferry ride between the North & South Islands across the Cook Strait
- Get up close to Kaikoura’s cutest residents at a local seal colony
- Take a tour of Christchurch & see its inspiring regeneration
- Visit the Church of the Good Sheperd
- Join unparalleled stargazing in Tekapo’s Dark Sky Reserve
- Carve your own pounamu (greenstone/jade) pendant in Franz Josef
- Visit the Mountain Jade Factory in Hokitika & Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki
- Learn to paddle a waka (Maori war canoe) along the Abel Tasman coastline
- Services of an expert tour manager
- Transport onboard a comfortable 22-seat Toyota Coaster
- Departs from the meeting point at The Dwellington, 8 Halswell Street, Thorndon, Wellington (meeting location may change, please check your final documents for the confirmed location
New Zealand Backyard Beauties TourOver 13 action packed days, you'll explore the best of New Zealand's South Island, including adventure, nature, & Maori culture.
- Optional activities & accommodation upgrades
What to Expect
Spend 13 unforgettable days exploring the South Island's most iconic destinations. You'll stroll secluded beaches, traverse jaw-dropping mountain ranges, paddle a Maori waka, stay in a lush rainforest, and be wowed by the stars at an International Dark Sky Reserve.
Then admire turquoise lakes, intriguing rock formations and blue glaciers, and visit picturesque cities and quaint gold-rush towns before carving your own greenstone pendant as the perfect souvenir of this incredible journey.
Day 1 – Wellington to Kaikoura
Packed with quirky cafes and beautiful street art and famous for its wind, Wellington will blow you away in more ways than one! Your guide will introduce you to some of their favourite spots this morning, including Mount Victoria, for the best views in town.
This afternoon you'll say farewell to the North Island with a scenic ferry journey across the Cook Strait. It's a 3hr 30min journey, and the South Island awaits with a stunning welcome in-store as you glide through the Marlborough Sounds on the approach to Picton Harbour. You'll feel like you're in another world!
The next destination, Kaikoura, literally means "to eat crayfish", and the area is teeming with them. The nutrient-rich waters of this area attract a wide variety of marine wildlife, including the stars of the show – the whales and dolphins.
Day 2 – Kaikoura to Christchurch
Start your morning in Kaikoura with some optional activities. The chance to swim with dolphins in the wild is a massive New Zealand highlight for many travellers, and this is one of the best places to find them. Pods of up to 300 of these playful creatures hanging out here at any one time.
Alternatively, if you want to get up close to the giants of the ocean, a whale watching tour is the way to do it. Humpbacks, sperm whales and orca all stop by at various times of the year, so this is a great chance to meet some of them.
Finally, after visiting the local seals on your way out of town, the road trip continues to your home for the night – Christchurch, known as the 'Garden City' for its peaceful parklands and lazy rivers.
Day 3 – Christchurch to MacKenzie Country
Spend the morning exploring iconic downtown Christchurch and enjoying this quirky city. Your guide will show you how the city is being rebuilt after the life-changing 2011 earthquake here. There's plenty to see – Christchurch locals are an innovative and creative bunch, and there's tons of art around to check out. The Transitional Cathedral, created from cardboard, is also worth a look!
After lunch, you'll leave the city behind and head for Lake Tekapo. The lake's stunning turquoise colour and mountain backdrop will take your breath away and are a photographer's dream come true. The tiny Church of the Good Shepherd stands right at the water's edge, and couples travel from all over the world for wedding shots in front of it.
This evening, you'll look to the skies for some stargazing. Tekapo is declared an International Dark Sky Reserve, and the clear skies make it the best place in New Zealand to see the stars and galaxies. So sit back, relax and enjoy.
Day 4 – MacKenzie Country to Queenstown
If you're feeling enthusiastic this morning, hike up to the summit of Mt John. With fantastic views of the Southern Alps, you'll feel on top of the world.
Speaking of views, today's scenic drive to Queenstown is a show-stopper! From the golden surrounds of Mackenzie country – where Peter Jackson filmed epic battles of Return of the King – to the dramatic peaks of the Southern Alps, it's like you're driving into a postcard.
You'll pause for lots of photo stops en route so you can snap some pics and remember this area forever. You'll make a stop at the spectacular Kawarau Gorge, which also happens to be the World Home of Bungy. Give it a go, or enjoy watching the jumpers scream as they plummet down the gorge!
Then, it's on to more adrenaline and adventure in Queenstown. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie, an avid hiker, wine taster or scenery lover, this city has something for absolutely everyone. With two nights and plenty of daylight hours here, get ready – this town certainly knows how to live life to the max!
Day 5 – Queenstown
With a full day in Queenstown, it's time to tick some things off your bucket list! There are many optional activities, like paragliding over the lake, bungy jumping, horse riding through Lord of the Rings scenery, or swinging through a canyon! There are also mountain bike parks and trails to die for.
For hikers, the Ben Lomond day walk will be right up your alley. But beware, it's not for the faint-hearted! This walk is a firm tour guide favourite, but they can recommend great shorter walks too.
For scenery lovers, Milford Sound is a must-see. Whether you fly or drive, the scenery en route is as fabulous as the destination. Once there, as you're sailing beneath thundering waterfalls and towering cliff faces, you'll understand why some call it the "8th Wonder of the World."
Come nightfall, and you have around 40 bars to choose from! Your guide will share their favourites, and no doubt you'll discover some of your own.
Day 6 – Queenstown to Wanaka
Spend one last morning in Queenstown, squeezing in any last-minute activities to get that final thrill.
Then, after the excitement of New Zealand's adventure capital, the afternoon offers the opportunity to chill. Wanaka is Queenstown's slightly quieter little sister, and it's just a one hour drive away. On the way, you'll stop in at charming Arrowtown, a historic gold rush village with heaps of character.
As you cruise into Wanaka, you'll soon see why it's considered one of New Zealand's most beautiful mountain towns. It's a seriously stunning sight blessed with towering peaks and a glacial blue lake. There are also fantastic hikes and bike rides all around the town to enjoy.
Day 7 – Wanaka to Franz Josef
This morning is about exploring Wanaka. How, exactly, is up to you! Optional activities include a flying lesson, skydiving, a bike tour along Wanaka's lakeside, or a lake cruise and nature walk on Mou Waho Island. Also, don't forget to check out That Wanaka Tree that sits alone in the lake.
Next, it's onto Franz Josef, with a stunning journey to get there. Stop at lakeside lookout points at Lake Hawea or Lake Wanaka. You'll want to pay attention for the rest of the trip, too – from the cascading waterfalls of Haast Pass to classic Kiwi coastal views; you won't want to miss anything. Your guide will have some epic surprise photo stops and short walks along the way.
Finally, you'll roll into Franz Josef in the late afternoon/early evening. This UNESCO World Heritage area is famous for its spectacular glacier, just 5 kilometres from town, which is begging to be explored tomorrow.
Day 8 – Franz Josef
After waking to snowy surroundings, your day exploring the stunning Franz Josef Glacier begins! With Aoraki/Mount Cook (New Zealand's highest mountain) twinkling behind the glaciers, Franz Josef is about as beautiful a setting as you can find in New Zealand.
Te Wahi Pounamu, which means 'the place of greenstone' in Maori, is the name given to this part of the West Coast because of the abundance of pounamu (greenstone/jade) that you can find here. Today, you'll participate in a special activity where you'll have the opportunity to carve your very own pounamu pendant at a local gallery.
Afterwards, it's time to get stuck into the many optional activities at Franz Josef Glacier. Weather permitting, you can take a scenic helicopter flight and hike onto the glaciers! Or, maybe you'd prefer to kayak on a glacial lake; or just relax in the steamy hot springs – the choice is yours.
As well as the awesome glacier activities, you can also try out quad biking, horseback riding and even a bit of group karaoke tonight in Franz Josef.
Day 9 – Franz Josef to Punakaiki
Today you'll depart glacier country for Punakaiki. Driving along the incredible coastal road and exploring the lush West Coast forests almost feels like you've stepped back in time. It's a rare treat to experience such remote prehistoric landscapes, so make the most of this awesome opportunity to unplug from the outside world.
You'll visit one of the famous artisan greenstone factories in Hokitika as you travel north. Then pass through some old gold mining towns before arriving in Punakaiki.
One of Punakaiki's many natural wonders is the subtropical rainforest – and you are staying in the heart of it for the next two nights! Cook up a group dinner (not included) in this rainforest paradise, and be sure to end the day watching the sunset over the ocean.
Day 10 – Punakaiki
Enjoy some free time in Punakaiki. Whether you decide to soak up the sun on the unspoilt beaches or stroll through the rainforest to a chorus of birdsong, you'll shed your cares in this magical place.
A short walk to see a giant stack of pancakes is a must-do: Punakaiki's limestone Pancake Rocks developed over 30 million years ago. You'll see what water pressure can do when the waves power through some seriously impressive blowholes – watch out for that spray!
Today you could try your hand at surfing or exploring the region's underground caves by tube. Or simply chill by the beach near your rainforest home. On a clear night, head to the beach with your buddies and watch the stars come out to play – seriously, is there a better way to end the day?
Day 11 – Punakaiki to Abel Tasman
Cruising up north from Punakaiki, the scenery gets better and better. The powerful, untouched coastline gives way to rivers and gorges before you drive over the hills and down towards the bayside town of Nelson to stock up on supplies before your next remote hideaway.
Marahau, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, boasts golden beaches, tranquil lagoons and crystal clear waters. Abel Tasman is the perfect contrast to the wildness of the rainforests and mountains.
Day 12 – Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman is a true beauty! Lush forests, golden sandy beaches, sheltered bays, and jaw-dropping views – not to mention the local seals, dolphins and birdlife. You've got a full day of free time today to explore this stunning location. You might like to hike part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track – one of New Zealand's nine Great Walks – or paddle a kayak to Split Apple Rock.
Alternatively, you could jump, slide, abseil, float and zipline your way through the park on a fantastic canyoning adventure. Fancy a relaxing day instead? Choose yourself a golden beach and make yourself at home.
Day 13 – Abel Tasman to Wellington
Today is the last day of your tour! You'll start things off by learning to paddle a traditional waka (Maori war canoe). Then, experience a karakia (blessing for protection), and learn Tikanga (Maori knowledge and etiquette), all while getting out on the water to enjoy this unique included activity.
Then, the road trip continues along the northern edge of the South Island this afternoon. Make a quick stop at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve (a film location for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and make your way through Havelock, winding towards Picton to catch the afternoon ferry to Wellington.
As the lights of Picton Harbour fade into the night, relax onboard together for a chilled evening. The tour officially finishes at 8:00 pm in Wellington, but your accommodation tonight is included.
Where we Visit:
- Lake Tekapo
- Church of the Good Shepherd
- International Dark Sky Reserve
- Haast Pass
- Franz Josef
- Abel Tasman
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Around 70% of guests are solo, so you can absolutely join this or any other tour.
Here's a sample of our favourite optional activities to get your blood pumping.
- Canyon Swinging in Queenstown
- Extreme Jet Boating in Queenstown
- The Nevis Bungy in Queenstown – with a drop of 134 metres
- Skydiving in Wanaka
Your guide will supply a continental breakfast each morning of your tour. This will consist of cereal, toast, tea, coffee and juice. And they take any special requests also.
Lunches and dinners are at your own expense. The guides know the best places in each town and city depending on your budget and what you are after, and they will point these out on the way into each location.
Some nights the tour group may choose to cook a meal together. You will head to a supermarket to get everything and then cook as a group at the hostel. Whoever joins in splits the cost, and it usually works out to be about $10 NZD per person. It's a fun, social and cheap dinner.
Likewise, the tour group and guide often head out to a local pub for a beer and a meal. Meals can range from $15 upwards. In summer, it’s not uncommon to have a BBQ washed down with a few drinks.
Yes – all cafes and restaurants in New Zealand offer these options. If you can’t see any on the menu, just ask, as most places will happily prepare something for you.
- The minimum age is 18 years
- The Operator requires a minimum number of bookings in order for a tour to be financially viable & to have a pleasant group atmosphere
- Itineraries are subject to alteration without notice & are intended as a guide only. The Operator reserves the right to change the itinerary without any notice
- Some activities are strenuous in nature. Passengers should be of reasonable health and fitness and carry all required medication and accept that degrees of risk are involved. The Operator must be advised of any prior medical conditions at the time of booking
- If for any reason you do need to cancel your tour there are a few things to be aware of. Your $99 is a non-refundable deposit, however, in the event that you need to cancel outside of the cancellation period The Operator will hold your deposit on file for life & this can be used towards a future departure
- Upon cancellation, you will be liable to pay a fee to cover the cost of expenses incurred by The Operator at the time of booking in the below schedule. Tour Cost is inclusive of any additional activities and pre/post accommodation
- Outside 45 days Notice – Loss of $99NZD
- 8–44 days Notice – 50% of tour cost
- Within 7 Days Notice – 100% of tour cost
- Changes to activities & additional accommodation are not permitted within 45 days of departure to tour
- If you need to change to an alternative departure date you may do so in accordance with the below fees:
- Outside 45 days Notice – No fee
- 8–44 days Notice – $500 Admin Fee
- Within 7 Days Notice – 100% of tour cost
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